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Guest Blogger – Samuel Wagar

21 February 2014 No Comment

I met Samuel Wagar online almost fifteen years ago, on an email list for pagans that had been following the path for 20+ years. I met him in person (finally!) at Gaia Gathering in Edmonton, in spring of 2005. What a weekend! Someday, I’d really love to have us all get together again…

In the meantime, welcome to the Mirror, Sam – glad to have you here!

Writing a Memoir, Finally
© 2014 Samuel Wagar, all rights reserved

“Cattle die, kinsmen die
The self must also die;
But glory never dies,
For the man who is able to achieve it.

Cattle die, kinsmen die
The self must also die;
I know one thing which never dies:
The reputation of each dead man.”1

I had been bugging Elders in the Pagan community for several years to get their stories written down and ready to pass along. As our Elders die, priceless stories and history are lost.

Then, my step-father Cam Schell , the love of my mother’s life, died of cancer in June 2012, my younger brother Doug Wagar died accidentally a year later in 2013, and my 57th birthday was coming up, my work was unsatisfying and I was thinking I needed a change. So, for these and other reasons, I decided that this project I’d been putting off for several years had to be done. I quit my job mid-November 2013 with the intention of getting at least the first draft of my memoirs written by the end of the year.

My memory is good but not that good. It really helped that I am a packrat for documents (with a history MA) and I have kept the correspondence from publishing twenty years of Pagans for Peace magazine (1983-2002) as well as a clippings file for just as long. My Book of Shadows ritual journal and notebook became my diary pretty well as soon as I started it, in 1982.

The emphasis in a memoir is on memory and story. So I could gloss over years of my life because there aren’t a lot of interesting stories there and I had no real need to tell stories that embarrass me or those I love or loved. Like everyone, I’ve done stupid or hurtful things, made bad decisions, “loved not wisely but well” and the rest of it. The chronology is rough – I’m following themes and telling stories.

When I thought in particular now of the 23 years I lived in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, nearly half my life, almost all of my two son’s lives, I feel like I should understand it, find meaning and pattern in it. At the start of August, 2012, I left for Edmonton, probably for good. I had some small influence in the Toronto anarchist political movement when I was young, as part of the collective that published the anarchist quarterly Kick It Over. Anarchism had some greater influence on the left in the ‘80s than it now does. I established the start of my reputation as a Pagan activist organizer and shit-disturber there, but my greatest work thus far was in BC.

This life has been ups and downs, times where I’ve been at the centre of things in communities I’m involved in and at other times on the periphery, successful and not really. Looking only at what I’ve done in one part of my life or at one time is a very partial approach – those times where a great deal of my energy went into a few human relationships were productive in different ways. The intensive year in 2011 of pulling together and teaching that ritual theory course online for Avalon College, even though there were only two students that continued through the whole thing, was highly productive because it forced me to read and think, to teach and to write. I can see the three books that I wrote and published the next year coming out of that experience, for sure.

But several of the Pagan communities in Lower Mainland BC, particularly the Fringe and the Gathering and the ones around them, and the activities of CWABC affiliates, are all to some extent my off-spring. I won’t take credit for things that I only slightly influenced, but recognizing the influence, at least to me, is legitimate. There are projects that I had nothing to do with, parts of the community where I have not had any influence (except as a ‘bad example’) at all.

But as I read old letters and wrote, I found a pattern, or several patterns, derived from the kind of person that I am (a hint, not that modest nor conventional, or as humble as people seem to think I ‘ought to be’), and the several ongoing interests of many years shape my activities and I might call them meanings to my life. They have, however, shifted over the years and what was once a meaning is now sometimes a memory or an influence. But really, it’s a lifetime, 57 years now, and a lot of time to try to make sense of in one gulp.

I don’t dwell on the mistakes, or ignore them, just not spend much time on them. When I’ve been going through my diary and documents I have realized how little I truly regret. There have been a lot of controversies in public, balanced by many private acts of kindness and charity. Those issues that have to do with character – my difficulty tolerating stupidity and inability to condone lying, my honesty, generosity, kindness, impatience, can best show themselves in action, since I have no interest in psychoanalysis.

I have enjoyed tracing back the roots, good or bad, of the person I now am, looking toward whom I might become, and I hope that the pleasure of self-discovery will come through to my readers. This exercise of writing these memories down, and rediscovering, owning my life, including all that I have not wanted to remember, has been valuable. I am reminded, quite seriously, that I have made a difference in the world, and I think that my life thus far has been a good life.

I would like to begin by acknowledging all of the women that I have loved, and those that have loved me, both the beautiful things and ugly things that I have seen and experienced, my enemies both personal and corporate and institutional, the political and spiritual groups and projects that I have been involved with over the years – it seems I need to embrace all of existence, good and bad, to know this life of mine.

Thank you, as well, to my lifelong Patron, Ares, the God of War – struggling with you, against you, and in partnership with you has made much that I have accomplished possible. “I will not cease from mental fight / nor shall my sword sleep in my hand / ‘til we have built Jerusalem”2
* * *
1 – Sayings of the High One 76-77 from The Poetic Edda translated Carolyne Larrington (Oxford; Oxford U. Press, 1996), p 24.

2 – From Jerusalem by William Blake (part of the epic poem Milton, 1810)


Sam Wagar has been active in the fight for human rights and religious freedoms for Canadian Wiccans, as well as being a political activist and the founder of many Pagan and Wiccan organizations in Ontario and British Columbia. He is a published author and legal clergy.


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